TASMANIAN parents could be prosecuted for having their baby boys circumcised if a new national report, released yesterday, is adopted.
The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute report _ the first like it in the country _ calls for legislation to make it illegal for ``incapable minors'' to be circumcised.
The only exceptions would be for well-established religious or culturally motivated customs.
The state government welcomed the release of the report only two weeks after Premier Lara Giddings announced that she would push for legislation to make Tasmania the first state to legalise gay marriage.
Health Minister Michelle O'Byrne said that the government acknowledged that a need for greater clarity in the law for non-therapeutic male circumcision had been raised as a significant issue.
Other recommendations in the 101-page report include legislating to enable criminal charges to be brought against a person who performs a circumcision but fails to meet minimum standards of care and joint parental authorisation required for the procedure when it is performed legally.
Law Reform Institute director Kate Warner said that research and writing of the report had attracted a great deal of interest with 126 submissions received from Tasmania, interstate and overseas.
Former Tasmanian children's commissioner Paul Mason called for it to be done while he was still in office.
Mr Mason, who was also a member of the Council of Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality and Morbidity, was critical of circumcision of minors when it was not needed for health reasons.
The children's commissioner's office prepared its own discussion paper, which found that the law in Tasmania was not clear on the issue of male circumcision under the age of 18.
The law reform institute report found that medical professionals have performed circumcision in medical facilities since before Federation.
Some of Australia's indigenous communities have performed circumcision from ``time immemorial.''
The vast majority of the procedures in Australia are performed on newborns at the request of their parents but the number has declined significantly in recent years.
Medicare statistics suggest that only about 1 per cent of Tasmanian newborns or between 30 and 40 children, would be circumcised in the next few years.
Most Tasmanian procedures are performed by trained professionals with the small number of Tasmanian Muslims seeking out a doctor to do a circumcision.
The report found that when a traditional Jewish circumcision is needed, a mohel, or circumcisor is brought from interstate or the family travels interstate to have it done.
The report found that the evidence both for and against circumcision for health reasons was about evenly balanced .
There has never been a circumcision test case in Australia.
The Australian Medical Association could not be reached for comment yesterday but the report found that most doctors now preferred not to perform the procedure on healthy newborn boys.
The Law Institute report acknowledged that the legislation it proposed would be difficult because the emotiveness of the issue would make reform controversial and hard to implement.